Forget Hartnell Down… How About Giroux Out!
Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers delivered what appeared to be an illegal check to New Jersey Devils player Dainius Zubrus during game four of their second round matchup. The hit was reviewed by Senior Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan, and was deemed an illegal check to the head. Giroux was subsequently suspended for one game. Shanahan’s breakdown of the suspension underlined three key factors - One, the head was the principal point of contact making it a reckless and illegal hit. Two, Zubrus was shaken up on the play, but ultimately suffered no apparent injury. Three, Giroux has no prior history of suspension or fines. One game seemed right on the money based on Shanahan’s breakdown, and what we’ve seen from him during the playoffs so far. So there are really only two questions to ask yourself; do you agree that it was an illegal hit? And do you agree with the verdict of a one game suspension?
Here is the link to Shanahan’s explanation
Was it an illegal hit?
When I was first watching the game and I saw the hit live, and then replayed it several times, I didn’t think the hit warranted a suspension. I thought there could have been a slashing penalty against Giroux, but I didn’t think the hit was illegal. It looked to me like Zubrus was skating with his head down, and when he saw Giroux coming toward him, he tried to juke to the left at the last second to avoid the hit. This is similar to how forwards try to get around defenseman on a dump-in. However, I changed my mind about the hit when I watched Shanahan break it down in slow motion. Giroux was previously upset on the play, and, while that should have no bearing on the review, it does show the frustration that led to the reckless hit. Under normal circumstances Giroux would have just slashed the stick the way he did, and then taken off in pursuit of the puck. But he was angry and frustrated, and when I watched the hit again with the aid of slow motion, he throws his shoulder towards Zubrus without looking. He was not looking at his target. He threw a blind hit, and unfortunately Zubrus was in a low and very vulnerable position. It definitely wasn’t an intent to injure, but like an accidental high stick, you have to be in control of your actions at all times.
Was a one game suspension a fair verdict?
Once I had determined that the hit was illegal, and did warrant supplemental discipline, a one game suspension was the obvious outcome. It is congruent with what we have seen from Shanahan so far this playoffs (with exception to Torres), and I think, right or wrong, consistency is the key. Some people might have a problem with Torres getting 25 games, and then Giroux, a superstar in the league only getting one game. But I don’t think there was any superstar leniency here. This is Giroux’s first infraction, there was no injury on the play, and it is consistent with other rulings.
This is, however, a huge blow to the Philadelphia Flyers. They are facing elimination tonight against the Devils, and Giroux is by far their best player. He has a veteran presence on the bench and in the locker room, and leads the team by example on the ice. He is also currently leading the playoffs in scoring with 17 points. That is five points more than teammate Daniel Briere, who currently sits in second. Needless to say this will be a big loss for the Flyers.
Philadelphia isn’t the first team to go into battle without their leading scorer this playoffs, and in other instances it has proved to be a rallying point for the team. Radulov had missed game three for the Predators, and Kovalchuk missed game four for the Devils. Both teams were victorious without their star, as the rest of their teammates dug deep in their absence. But I’m sure despite the positive results, Philly would like to have their leading scorer in the game tonight. Now only time will tell if Claude Giroux has laced up his skates for the last time this season.
…and that is the last word.